Recent firing incidents most serious test of UN resolution on Israel, Lebanon
Recent firing incidents have posed the most serious challenge since the adoption of a resolution which helped end the war between Israel and Hizbollah in the summer of 2006, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a new report.
Rockets fired into Israel from south Lebanon and return fire at the time of the recent crisis in Gaza led to heightened tensions along the so-called Blue Line that separates Israeli and Lebanese sides and “endangered the cessation of hostilities agreement,” Mr. Ban wrote in his latest report to the Security Council on resolution 1701.
The 2006 resolution called for renewed respect for the Blue Line, the disarming of militias and an end to arms smuggling, among other measures.
“The firing of rockets from southern Lebanon towards Israel, which I condemn in all instances, constituted a serious violation” of the resolution, he said. The attacks were launched from sites close to populated areas, including a school in session at the time, “putting innocent civilians at risk.”
The Secretary-General added that “the fact that the Israel Defense Forces returned fire with artillery shells into Lebanese territory on 8 and 14 January without providing prior warning to [the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)] is also a cause for serious concern,” noting that these acts endangered civilians, as well as UN blue helmets and soldiers of the Lebanese Armed Forces.
“At the same time, I was encouraged by the measures that were taken by all parties to avoid an escalation,” he wrote, with the resolution’s mechanisms having served as an “effective deterrent and prevented an escalation of the situation in southern Lebanon.”
But he cautioned that these incidents “also highlight the precarious nature of the current cessation of hostilities and the necessity for both parties to take further steps to address a number of unresolved issues,” including disarming militant groups.
Mr. Ban said that he is pleased that the parties have made strides to visibly mark the Blue Line, encouraging Lebanon and Israel to stay the course and build on existing momentum to curb inadvertent violations and boost confidence.
He reiterated his call on Israel to immediately end all over-flights of Lebanese territory which violate Lebanon’s sovereignty and resolution 1701.
The report also called on all Lebanese leaders to exercise restraint ahead of the 7 June parliamentary elections, which “will bring added challenges that may test the country’s frail domestic stability.”
The Security Council will be briefed on the report by Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, in a closed meeting tomorrow.